Nick And Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Nick & Tesla 1OK, first review every for a book who title and author is probably going to exceed the allowed length of the tweet that will publicise the review…

Nick and Tesla are two science-minded 11 year old twins, shipped off to their Uncle Newt in California. Uncle Newt is every bit the mad scientist, with a slight blindspot when it comes to basic things like safety and basic hygiene, but that’s only the beginning. When testing out a rocket – instructions for such a rocket contained within the book – the twins stumble upon an old house guarded by a couple of thugs with a mysterious girl in the window. Add that to the mysterious black SUV that’s following them everywhere and Nick and Tesla will need to use all of their know-how – plus a bucket load of luck – to get to the bottom of things and escape with their skins intact!

I’ve reviewed a couple of books for kids before – here, here and here – and, when Quirk Books asked me to take a look at this, I jumped at the chance. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at a mystery for children and, to be honest, I’d read the phone book if someone wrote Steve Hockensmith‘s name on the front of it…

OK, first and foremost, I’m not the target audience here. Whereas with The Three Investigators, there’s a huge whiff of nostalgia which colours my view in a favourable direction, I’m approaching this series cold. I think, if I understand it correctly, that being a Middle Grade adventure, that means that it’s aimed at 8-12 year olds. Right, attempting to regress to that age…

… no, didn’t work. Have to use my adult eyes instead.

First off, it’s a nice combination of story and science. There are four gizmos to make, all of which are well chosen to appeal to someone of that age group, but of sufficient complexity that it would require an adult to help – and given that one of them is a rocket, that’s no bad thing. I’m not convinced that every adult would have the technical know-how to build each contraption, but hopefully they’ll have a go. To be clear, I failed in my reviewing to even try and build any item. Sorry.

The story trundles along nicely. Nick and Tesla (and their less sciencey friends) are entertaining company and there are plenty of funny lines, a couple of which made even this jaded old adult laugh out loud – the dog-distractor mark 2, for example. Hockensmith has a great ear for humorous dialogue that doesn’t seem forced and it shows on every page here. (I presume that it’s Steve and not “Science Bob” who wrote the text!)

It’s more of an adventure than a mystery – it’s a “what’s going on” rather than “whodunit?” but I’ll point out again – it’s for 8 to 12 year olds. Not for crotchety mystery nuts like me. Although, to be fair, this crotchety old mystery nut is intrigued enough by the ending to keep an eye out for the next book (which has robots in it!)

So, if a) you’re 8 to 12 and like a bit of science; b) you’re a parent of an 8 to 12 year old child who likes a bit of science or c) you fancy an undemanding read that will make you smile (and aren’t too embarrassed to buy books from the children’s section) then this is Highly Recommended. And then go and buy all of the Holmes On The Range series, so Steve will write another one…

This book was supplied to me by the publishers, Quirk Books. It’ll be in shops from early November.

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6 comments

  1. Well Steve, I have enjoyed a few recent forays into YA territory like the LEMONY SNICKET series and Charlie Higson’s Young bond books, both of which I would happily recommend to the young and the young at heart (sic) – but I may be showing my age just by finding the name of the protagonists a bit too arch for me … but duly noted chum as I have 9-year-old nieces who may love this – ta!

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